David Wolf - Letters Home
Subject: My mother would be proud of me.
After finally learning where to find critical items like the self-closing trash container liners, I think it is safe to say that I am settling in up here. One of the things I am learning is that you don't have to be a rocket scientist (even though that is what we are) to make a real difference on Mir. Between operating a full-time lab module and pitching in on the daily ship's chores, I hardly have time to write my letters home. Don't take that as a complaint. There's no place on Earth I would rather be.
Because the crews before us were so busy fighting alligators it's now up to us to return this remarkable ship into top shape. Unfortunately for me, that means things like organizing and cleaning, tasks my mother can attest that I didn't always excel at back on Earth. But she sure would be proud of me now. I spent most of today in the bathroom, organizing and cleaning it, not using it. Yesterday, I spent the morning capturing the water that accumulates as big wiggling, floating blobs on the heat exchangers of our condensate recovery system.
My pet project is keeping the numerous ventilation filters clear--no small order. I also have been put in charge of the local lost and found. Because I helped stow the gear from the Progress supply ship, Pavel and Anatoly think I actually remember where I put everything. But even if that were true, unlike on Earth, up here things don't necessarily stay where you put them. If you don't nail it down (up here we use Velcro) there is literally no telling where something will float.
I am trying to fix our CD player but I'll be lucky to even get it back together again. I also help Pavel out with the up-and-down data link through which much of our communications with the mission controllers occurs. But, mainly, my time is spent in the laboratory module, Priroda, which means "nature" in English. It's a capable lab. I really enjoy the work and interacting with the researchers and operations teams on Earth. It keeps me so busy I can't imagine having yet another module (would have been Spektr) full of experiments. I feel we have already made some important observations. A great colleague of mine said that a lab is a place with enough junk in it to do anything. We're there.
This ship literally reeks of both history and character. It's a "fixer upper" all right, but one you would take a long trip with in a heartbeat. The central command post (cockpit) has keys that look like worn ivory. Leather shrouds serve where plastic would now be chosen. The metal machining is recognizably Russian, and of the highest quality. It's overall character brings forth the image of the "time machine" from Orson Wells' classic. Signatures and instruction placards written by the hands of over a decade of cosmonauts who maintained and lived in this true marvel of human achievement. Adapted over the years to the unforeseen requirements of zero-gravity life. Tables with things on both sides. A bicycle with no seat. A set of heavy tools held in place by rubber bands. It sports a network of bungees and cables suited ideally to gravityless locomotion and stowage. Spiderman would be envious.
I ate dinner with my eyes closed while listening to music recorded at a Russian cafe on Tverskaya. Apparently it takes longer than three weeks to get totally used to no gravity. I still look up at the gas analyzer on the ceiling and wonder, for a moment, how I'll get up there to read it and find myself momentarily surprised to discover that I can just fly on up. I continue to try and put things "down," foolishly thinking it might stay put. Naturally, it quickly gets lost. I get my hands too full, and then, am a bit slow to simply let go and then sort it out. I also forget to use the ceiling as a surface. The other morning Pavel was in my path for several seconds before I remembered I could just float over him to get where I was going. We show off to each other the intricacies of body control, in the proper form, as dictated by current zero-gravity style. These are competitions I invariably lose. I am still trying to figure out how not to become upside down when putting my pants on. Don't worry though. I have plenty of time to figure it out.